Legislature Provides $2.3M in Support for Community College Students
In recent years, paying for a college education has become too expensive for many people, and students who are at an economic disadvantage are disproportionately affected. To offset costs for tuition and basic needs, state lawmakers have passed two bills appropriating more than $2.3 million in state funds to help our young people achieve their dream of a college degree.
The first bill is SB316 SD2 HD2 – Hawaiʻi Community College Promise Program.
- This bill provides $1.4 million ($700,000 for each of the next two fiscal years) to cover community college tuition for eligible students once all other federal aid and public and private scholarships are exhausted. The bill also requires the University of Hawaiʻi to collect data on how well the Promise Program directly increases the likelihood that a recipient attends college and completes a degree program.
Rep. Justin H. Woodson (Kahului, Pu‘unēnē, Old Sand Hills, Maui Lani), Chair of the House Lower & Higher Education Committee, said the Hawai‘i Promise Program has helped more than 1,500 community college students since it began in 2017.
“The Legislature wants to ensure that as much of these funds as possible go to students who may not otherwise have attended college, and that the scholarship is effective in helping students complete a degree program,” said Rep. Woodson. “If you want to invest in yourself, then we at the Legislature want to invest in you.”
The second bill is SB50 SD2 HD1 – Hawai’i Nutrition Employment and Training Program (HINET).
- This bill appropriates $910,000 ($455,000 for each of the next two fiscal years) to continue the HINET program and hire seven full-time instructional and student support positions.
- HINET is a workforce and education training program offered to students who receive or are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and are enrolled at least part-time at a UH community college in an approved program.
- HINET helps students cover the cost of food, transportation, books, and necessary tools.
- HINET staff work with students one-on-one to address their needs and goals, and match them with training.
Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (Kapalama, ‘Alewa, Kalihi Valley, Ft. Shafter, Moanalua Gardens & Valley, portions of Halawa and ‘Aiea) said the HINET program began in 2015 and is a partnership between the state Department of Human Services and the University of Hawaiʻi’s community colleges.
“These bills attest to the Legislature’s focus on education and the future by not only helping our students with their tuition, but by helping them not have to worry if they are going to be able to feed themselves, if they are going to be able to afford their textbooks, and how they are going to get to campus on time,” said Kim, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. ” These two measures work together to bring support the whole student so they can be successful in achieving their educational dreams.”
Bernadette Garrett, who will soon graduate from Windward Community College, said the HINET program’s support has changed her life.
“I’m so thankful. This program helped me be able to choose education over just working. To pay for my textbooks and other needs,” Garrett said. “The HINET program gave me the motivation and confidence to ensure that as a first-generation Native Hawaiian college student I can continue on the path that my kupuna, my mother, set out for me.”
Rep. Woodson said statistics from the HINET Program found that 72% of the participants returned for their next academic year, compared to 54% of all UH community college students.
“About 58% of the participants are Native Hawaiian,” said Woodson. “As of February, the program has had 543 enrollees and more than 200 University of Hawaiʻi Community College students are receiving assistance. About 140 enrollees completed a two-year program and are employed or transferred to a four-year campus.”
Both bills now advance to Governor David Ige for approval or veto.